|Who looks after this policy:
|Our Business Improvement Manager
|Who approved it:
|Our Executive team
|When was it last reviewed:
|When is the next review:
This policy sets out the way that B3Living will respond to all customer feedback, including but not restricted to complaints, comments and compliments received from customers.
The policy relates to any feedback received from customers of B3Living, or by others on their behalf. Customers will include any tenant, leaseholder, housing applicant, members of the public directly affected by our services or anyone else requesting a service from B3Living.
To remove any barriers, a customer may provide us feedback on our services using the method they find easiest, including:
- By phone – call a member of staff directly or via our main office number.
- In person – make an appointment to visit our office or talk to our staff.
- In writing – by email, letter, online, or using our app.
- Using an advocate (e.g. a carer).
- Seeking assistance from B3Living staff or a third-party agency (e.g. a British Sign Language translator, alternative language interpreter).
If a customer needs support to provide us with feedback, we will work with them to identify the most suitable way to meet their needs; this may be through support from a B3Living colleague, from an external agency (e.g. a carer, interpreter or translator), or by arranging translations of key documents.
Comments and/or complaints can generally be regarding:
- Failure to provide a service, or delays in providing a service.
- Failure to meet a published service standard or a promise we have made.
- Poor quality repair, maintenance work or grounds maintenance work.
- Unacceptable behaviour by a member of staff or a contractor.
- Disagreement with a decision that we have made, where there is not another procedure (for example, an appeal) to resolve the matter.
There are some things which we will not deal with as complaints, including:
- Service request, such as reporting a repair or antisocial behaviour, or where the matter is being or has already been dealt with through legal action or an insurance or liability claim.
- Issues being pursued in an unreasonable manner including frivolous or persistent complaints.
- Where the cause for complaint is more than 6 months old but is only reported now, unless there is good reason for delay.
- Where the complaint has been considered already and the request is an attempt to reopen a previously concluded complaint, or to have a complaint reconsidered where we have already given our final decision.
- Disagreement with a decision we have made where this is another procedure to appeal the decision.
- Complaints made on behalf of another without their signed authority to do so. In these cases, we will need to approach the affected customer directly to discuss whether to take their complaint forward.
Concerns or enquiries related to service delivery (including chasing issues with service delivery) should be treated as service requests and are not covered by this policy, unless:
- The customer requests to raise a complaint.
- We cannot offer a prompt resolution to their concern and will need to investigate (excluding concerns covered under separate procedures, for example, enquiries about ongoing anti-social behaviour cases).
- The customer has had to make repeated enquiries on the same matter.
- The customer expresses dissatisfaction with the standard of our service or is unhappy with the resolution offered.
- The customer’s enquiry highlights a wider issue B3Living may need to learn from.
We will accept complaints made by representatives when they have been requested by the customer. We will seek to ensure that a customer has given permission for the representative to make the complaint on their behalf, including seeking written permission where this is appropriate.
Anonymous complaints will not normally be dealt with under this policy, however, feedback from these complaints may be used alongside other forms of customer feedback to consider future development of policies and services if relevant.
It is not necessary for a customer to make a formal complaint if they are requesting compensation. Where a customer states they wish to complain but the subject is about seeking financial redress, we have a Compensation Policy.
3. Aims and objectives
3.1 Policy statement and aims
3.1.1 A complaint may be defined as “an expression of dissatisfaction, however made, about the standard of service, actions, or lack of actions by the organisation, its own staff, or those acting on its behalf, affecting an individual resident or groups of residents.”
3.1.2 B3Living aims to provide an exceptional customer experience for its customers. However, we recognise that occasionally things can go wrong, and customers may have cause to complain. A customer does not have to use the word “complaint” for their expression of dissatisfaction to be treated as such.
3.1.3 B3Living welcomes complaints and sees them as an opportunity to identify service improvements.
3.1.4 B3Living will operate a clear, accessible complaints procedure. We will aim to:
- Make it as easy as possible for customers to complain by accepting written or verbal complaints from customers, or their representatives, and allowing customers to be accompanied by a representative at any meeting, if reasonable.
- Provide a detailed explanation to the customer if we decide not to accept a complaint based on the reasons set out in section 2. We will set out why the matter is not suitable for the complaints process. Following this a customer will be advised that they have the right to take that decision to the Housing Ombudsman and we will make the customer aware of how to contact the Housing Ombudsman.
- Where we have channels to communicate with customers via social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, then a complaint that comes in through these channels will be logged in line with the policy if the customer is identifiable. They will be contacted privately to resolve the complaint, which will ensure confidentiality and privacy is maintained. If the customer is not identifiable, we will encourage them to make a complaint directly with us and offer support to do be able to do this if needed.
- Manage expectations from the beginning of the process.
- Ensure customers are given the opportunity to explain their point of view about the outcome they are seeking before a decision is reached.
- Ensure customers are given a chance to respond and challenge any areas of dispute as the complaint progresses through the complaint stages.
- Offer those who complain a clear response to their complaint, provided within clearly defined timescales and in an appropriate format that suits the needs of the customer.
- Make customers aware of the complaints policy and procedure through the B3Living website, policies, leaflets, and articles in customer newsletters, and as part of regular correspondence with customers.
- Manage the complaints process efficiently and objectively, resolving problems as soon as possible, in a manner which respects confidentiality and privacy and reflects the extent of any service failure.
- Monitor and review complaints on a regular basis to identify trends and service weaknesses, to prevent recurrence and to actively identify possible service improvements resulting from comments and complaints made.
- Regularly include details of complaints received on our website and within our annual report and newsletters, including numbers upheld and lessons learnt.
- Not refuse to investigate a complaint beyond stage 1 of our formal complaint procedure, unless any of the exceptions set out in Section 3.2.8 apply.
- Make reasonable adjustments to our method and frequency of communicating with the customer to suit their needs.
3.1.5 B3Living will ensure compliance with the Housing Ombudsman’s Complaint Handling Code and promote this and the Ombudsman service to its customers.
3.1.6 A customer complaint may also involve an insurance claim or legal redress, but this should not present a barrier to customers accessing the complaints process for the relevant aspects of the complaint.
Where customers are entitled to legal redress, we still offer a resolution to the other parts of the complaint, obtaining legal advice on how this resolution should be worded.
Examples where a customer may be entitled to legal redress include:
- Loss of a home to redevelopment or demolition where the customer has lived there for at least 12 months.
- To cover moving costs if they have lived in their home for less than 12 months but are being asked to move permanently, or if customers are asked to move temporarily.
- Where B3Living has failed to fix a repair and the customer is entitled to redress under the Right to Repair scheme.
Further details can be found in our Compensation Policy.
3.2 Complaints Procedure
3.2.1 We hope that customers will normally tell a member of staff delivering the service of a problem and allow them to resolve the matter first-hand.
Any comments made about our services where the customer states they are not happy, or our service has fallen short of their expectations, will be logged as a stage 1 complaint.
3.2.2 If a customer makes us aware that they are not happy we will log the matter a stage 1 complaint, even if no remedial action is required, so we can learn from customer feedback.
3.2.3 Where a key issue of a customer complaint relates to our legal obligations, we will set out our understanding of the customer’s and our obligations as part of our complaint response.
3.2.4 Where the problem is a reoccurring issue, we will consider any older reports as part of background to the complaint to help resolve the issue.
3.2.5 If a customer is not happy with the resolution of their complaint we can escalate the matter to stage 2.
3.2.6 We will acknowledge receipt of all complaints stage 1 and escalations to stage 2 in writing within 5 working days. Acknowledgements will set out our understanding of the complaint, the outcomes the customer is seeking, confirm which stage the complaint is being logged at and who will be responsible for investigating the complaint. If any aspect of the complaint is unclear, we will ask the customer for clarification so a full definition of the complaint can be agreed and then investigated. We will keep the customer informed and updated during the process of their complaint.
3.2.7 Any additional complaints raised during the complaint investigation will be incorporated into the response if they are relevant, and if a response has not already been issued. Where responses have been issued or where the additional complaints would unreasonably delay the response, the issues should be logged as new complaints.
3.2.8 The stages of the formal procedure are as follows:
Investigations are impartial. If a complaint is made against an individual member of staff, they will not be responsible for the investigation.
We will respond within 10 working days of the complaint being logged in the most appropriate or preferred format for the customer.
We will investigate the complaint fully, and if we uphold it, we will set out an action plan with realistic timescales to resolve the matter and keep the customer informed about our progress in completing the agreed actions until the complaint is resolved and closed.
If it is not possible to respond within this timeframe, we will then provide an explanation and a date as to when the customer will receive their response. This extension should not exceed a further 10 days without good reason.
If an extension beyond the 20 days is required to enable a full response this will be agreed by both parties. If agreement over the extension period cannot be reached, we will provide customers with details of the Housing Ombudsman so they can review our plan/proposed timescales for response.
In some cases, it will be appropriate for a senior manager to deal with a Stage 1 complaint. Examples of this include complaints that are:
- High-profile or reputational risk to the business.
- Health and safety risks where serious detriment could be implied.
- Historic or very complex cases which cover multiple areas of the business.
- From persistent / unreasonable complainants (see section 6 for definition).
- Gross misconduct allegations.
- Vulnerable customers who require a home visit to facilitate this process.
A stage 2 escalation allows customers or staff to challenge any areas of the dispute and set out their position before any final decisions are made.
We will ask the customer to set out their reasons for escalating their complaint so both parties have a clear understanding of what the outstanding issues are.
We will respond in full within 20 working days of the request to escalate, in the most appropriate or preferred format for the customer.
This will be conducted by an Executive Director, member of the Leadership Team or manager deputising for the Executive/Leadership. They must be a different person to the person who dealt with the complaint at Stage 1. In some circumstances this review may also be referred to a different department.
They will review how the complaint was dealt with, whether the outcomes of the stage 1 investigation are to be upheld, and if more action is needed to fully resolve the complaint.
If it is not possible to respond within this timeframe, we will then provide an explanation and a date as to when the customer will receive their response. The extension should not exceed a further 10 days without good reason.
If an extension beyond the 10 days is required to enable a full response this will be agreed by both parties. If agreement over the extension period cannot be reached, we will provide customers with details of the Housing Ombudsman so they can review our plan/proposed timescales for response.
Complaints should only be escalated to Stage 2 at the request of the customer. Customers may not escalate to Stage 2 until after receiving a response from us at Stage 1, or after the timescales for responding to the customer at Stage 1 have elapsed (excluding instances where an extended deadline has been agreed with the customer).
In some circumstances, there may be a decision that a complaint will not be escalated to stage 2.
If this is the case, then we will provide a written explanation to the customer stating our reason and confirming that B3Living’s internal complaints process has been exhausted. We will offer advice on the next steps a customer can take if still dissatisfied and this will include the customer’s right to approach the Housing Ombudsman. We will not unreasonably close a complaint at stage 2 without further investigation, however, there may be grounds to close a complaint where:
- The matter is now being dealt with through legal action or relates to a liability issue that is being dealt with through an insurance claim (other aspects of the complaint can be escalated to stage 2).
- The customer has escalated their complaint solely to seek a higher award of compensation when the amount originally offered is fair, proportionate and in line with our policies and procedures.
- The customer is pursuing the issues in an unreasonable manner: for example, where the customer has not provided specific reasons for escalating their complaint and all actions previously agreed to resolve the complaint have been completed or has refused to engage with our staff in resolving the complaint through reasonable actions.
- The resolution requested by the customer relates to something outside of B3Living’s ability to change or influence.
- We have shown that we have followed policy/legal requirements and stated that we have provided our final position on a matter.
- The cause for complaint is more than 6 months old; B3Living (or its contractors) is not responsible for delays; and there is no valid reason why the customer has delayed escalating their complaint.
3.2.9 In all cases, staff members dealing with complaints will keep the customer updated and informed regularly, in the way they have asked to be kept in contact with, even where there is no new information to provide.
3.2.10 We will maintain records of the complaint, and any reviews or outcomes at each stage. These will include the original complaint and the date received; all correspondence with the customer and with other parties; and any reports or surveys prepared. These records will be stored in line with our data retention policy.
3.2.11 At the completion of each stage we will write to the customer advising them of:
- The complaint stage.
- The outcome of the complaint – addressing all points raised.
- The reasons for any decisions made, including references to any policy, law, or good practice.
- The details of any remedy offered to put things right, which reflect the extent of any failures in our service.
- Details of any outstanding actions.
- Details of how to escalate the matter if dissatisfied.
- How to access support from the Housing Ombudsman.
- Any other relevant information.
3.2.12 Customers and staff will be given the opportunity to comment on any adverse findings before a final decision is made.
3.3.1 Customers who wish to take their complaint beyond stage 1 are requested to do so within four weeks of B3Living’s formal response. An escalation request can be written or verbal. We will only escalate a complaint to stage 2 after stage 1 has been completed and at the request of the customer unless there is an exception reason (for example, significant failures to respond by B3Living at stage 1).
3.3.2 On receipt of a customer’s complaint escalation request we will set out our understanding of any outstanding issues and the outcomes the customer is seeking. If any aspect is unclear, we will ask the customer to let us so a full definition can be agreed between both parties.
3.3.3 Once a complaint has exhausted our internal complaints procedure, if the customer still feels the matter has not been put right, they may refer their complaint directly to the Housing Ombudsmen immediately after they have had their final response from us. They may also ask their local MP to contact us on their behalf.
3.3.4 Customers can contact the Housing Ombudsman by: writing to them at: Housing Ombudsman Service, PO Box 152, Liverpool L33 7WQ. Telephone: 0300 111 3000. Email: info@housing-ombudsman. org.uk, for more information about the Housing Ombudsman service visit - www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk.
3.3.5 The Housing Ombudsman will also assist customers throughout the life of the complaint, and not just after the complaint’s procedure has been exhausted. We will provide early advice to customers telling them about their right to access the Housing Ombudsman service as part of our initial correspondence in relation to their complaint.
3.3.6 Some cases are not appropriate to be referred to Housing Ombudsman. These would be cases that fall outside the Ombudsman’s definition of who can use the Scheme (see Housing Ombudsman Scheme, Part 2, 25), for example:
- People who do not have a landlord/customer relationship with B3Living, such as neighbours of our customers, or who did not at the time the problem occurred.
- Next of kin or third party who does not have signed authorisation from the customer or a relevant authority (if the customer does not have capacity) to act on the customer’s behalf. This applies to potential, former and deceased customers also.
3.4 Vexatious complainants
3.4.1 We recognise that complainants can become frustrated and feel aggrieved. However, there are a small minority of complainants that become persistent or unreasonable.
3.4.2 If a complainant is found to be persistent or unreasonable we will take appropriate action in line with our approach to tenancy management. (See the Persistent and/or Unreasonable Complaint Policy for further details.)
3.5 Compliments and comments
3.5.1 B3Living staff will log, and monitor compliments received from our customers. Compliments are defined as any expression or gratitude, or praise received from our customers about the service they have received from either an individual member of staff, operative, team or contractor operating on our behalf. Compliments will be forwarded to the relevant team, contractor or staff member’s manager so that staff and teams receive the recognition for their work.
3.5.2 Any feedback or comments received from customers about our services that do not fit within our policy definition of a complaint or compliment, such as a suggestion for a service improvement (but not based on a personal experience or previous service failure), will be recorded and forwarded to the Business Improvement Manager for consideration as informal feedback.
3.6 Recording and monitoring
3.6.1 The Business Improvement Manager is responsible for monitoring customer feedback and producing monitoring information about complaints for the Executive, senior management team and the Board. A complaint report is sent to the Executive and Leadership teams once a month and the Leadership conduct an annual review to learn from the major themes in complaint.
3.6.2 The reporting of complaints is included in the quarterly customer experience board paper. This information will include giving details of numbers of complaints at each stage, any trends identified, and actions taken where complaints are found to be justified.
3.6.3 This information will feature in the annual report for customers. We will also provide more regular information on complaints via our customer communications.
3.6.4 A complaints log will be maintained on the housing management system (QLx). All staff and managers are responsible for ensuring that complaints, however received, are logged and responded to on time.
The log will be used to generate management information as required.
4. Equality, diversity and inclusion
This policy includes reasonable adjustments to access the complaints policy. This ensures that appropriate adjustments are made to the service to take account of individual needs on the basis of the Equality Act. This includes, for example, the provision of translation and interpretation services, large print, Easy Read, Braille as well as the Reach Desk ‘Browsealoud’ provision that is accessible via our website for residents that are making a complaint via our website, as well as translated and large print versions of key documents (such as a customer-friendly, abbreviated version of this policy).
Our equality, diversity and inclusion policy also sets our goals around equal and inclusive access to services.
Complaints are monitored by diversity strand to ensure inclusivity.
An initial Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) has been carried out on this policy. Recommendations were given to strengthen provisions around inclusion, which have been included, and the initial EIA concluded that a further full EIA is not required.
5. Data protection and information security
Complaints data is stored on our customer database and Microsoft systems which are subject to data protection and information security policies and processes.
6. Customer voice
Customers have been consulted on this policy via our Customer Community. This policy is vital in ensuring that the customer voice feeds into service improvements.
We view customer feedback, including complaints, as a key component of the customer voice. We will use learnings from complaints to help us engage with customers on improvements to our services.
Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard (HCA, July 2017)
Housing Ombudsman Complaints Handling Code, April 2022
8. Linked policies, procedures and guidance
Persistent and/or Unreasonable Complaints Policy
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy
9.1 The Chief Executive is responsible for ensuring that all staff and Board members comply with this policy. Staff and managers are responsible for responding to complaints in accordance with the agreed timescales, having undertaken the appropriate investigation.
9.2 A complaint is assigned to the team best placed to answer it, depending on the nature and substance of the complaint. A complaint handler will be responsible for managing communication with the customer, record keeping and the general administration of the complaint.
Complaints handlers have the authority and autonomy to resolve disputes, with support from their team. Where needed, they escalate issues with resolving complaints to their line manager, the Business Improvement Manager or senior manager.
Other team members may be assigned as complaint resolver, responsible for addressing the cause(s) of the complaint (including resolving any service failures identified), depending on their nature and who is best placed to take action. If a complaint is made against an individual member of staff, they will not be responsible for the investigation.
9.3 Managers are responsible for ensuring that all staff support the complaints handlers and are aware of the policy around the definition and handling of complaints.
They are also responsible for ensuring that complaints handlers are appropriately trained in the procedure for logging and handling of complaints, that the complaint handler assigned to a complaint has no conflict of interest, and that the complaint resolver co-operates with the complaint handler in a thorough and timely manner. The Business Improvement Manager can provide support with this.
9.4 The Business Improvement Manager has a co-ordinating role for complaints. The Business Improvement Manager has the autonomy to intervene and work with members of staff to assist in resolving complaints or disputes that involve multiple service areas. The Business Improvement Manager is responsible for reporting on our performance, advises best practice, and acts as a contact for the Housing Ombudsman.
10. Performance monitoring
Performance against complaints handling timescales are monitored monthly and reported to our Board at each meeting as part of our key performance indicators.